The Muslim East and the Soviet Conquest

Maks Penson: City Square and Lenin (1925)

Maks Penson: City Square and Lenin (1925)

The Muslim dominated regions in the southern portion of asiatic side of the Russian Empire continued to be subjugated to the new regime that came to power in October 1917.  An interesting aspect of the eastern/Muslim role  in the October Revolution is the limited amount of control they exercised over their own nationalities.  Also, it is interesting to see their role in the Soviet system and how the eastern nations factored into their local governance in the early 1920s.

The predominately Muslim countries of Central Asia had been ruled and colonized by the Russian Empire since the 18th century.  The Kazakhs, Kirghiz, Azerbaijanis, Tartars, and Turks became intermingled with ethnic Russians and Slavs.  This interaction led some Eastern intellectuals to the cause of Jadidism, which called for reform in the social structure and education based on the Western model.  Many of these individuals would later become the leaders of Bolshevism in Central Asia.

After the October Revolution of 1917, a Soviet made of Russian soldiers and workers who lived in Central Asia rose to power in the area.  The Soviets tried to get the Muslims and ethnic minorities to buy into the revolution, offering autonomy and self-determination, as well as free practice of religion.  After Central Asia was conquered by the Red Army, the Russian Soviet government established the Turkestan, Bukhara, and Khorezm Republics.

This subjugation by the Russians and the lack of self-determination and platformnational unity with in the Republics, led the Congress of  the Peoples of the East to declare a Muslim Jihad against the colonialism and imperialism of the Russian Soviet.  They claimed the Russians had an “appearance of democracy,” but that the “policies proved useless” for the masses.  The Congress also made many demands about taxes, irrigation, land reform, and ensuring cultural tolerance.  This turned into a rebellion where armed bands of Basmachi fought the Red Army in a guerrilla war until they were almost fully subdued in 1922, ending the civil war.

Here’s  link to video portraying the Congress:

This is a link to another video of Central Asia in the 1920s:

The second video is interesting because of its portrayal of the Muslims worshiping and the Communist rhetoric regarding “liberation from slavery.”  I think this shows the connection between the religious and political struggle in Central Asia, the struggle for national self-determination without the absence of Communism.



Encylopedia Britannica, Activities of the Jadid Reformers

Seventeen Moments in Russian History, The Muslim East, 1921:

Minutes of the Baku Congress of the Peoples of the East:



Maks Penson: City Square and Lenin:

Baku, Congress of the Peoples of the East, 1920:



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